"I'd hate to see out of control...",
This review is from: Inception (DVD)
I was first introduced to Inception during a five-minute preview before the showing of Sherlock Holmes (2009) and was mildly intrigued by the snippets that were presented in the teaser trailer. Basically, I assumed the film would be another Prestige (2006) and came to the conclusion that Ken Watanabe was a 'magician' of some sort and was involved in 21st century espionage (among other things) and that Leonardo DiCaprio was assigned to hunting him down. Of course, when I heard that the film was about invading the subconscious of the dreamer and stealing or implanting ideas in the mind, I wondered how the hell that would turn out. So, on a rather spur of the moment my family and I decided to see this film and went off to the theaters.
Sufficed to say, I enjoyed this movie and found it to be one of the simplest films Nolan has directed since Batman Begins (or even Insomnia) despite his efforts to confuse his audience with his ideals and opinions of how the mind works when a person is asleep and dreaming.
The story, simply put is this:
Inception follows the tale of Dominic Cobb and Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt), thieves for hire sent to steal an ideal from a man called Saito (Ken Watanabe). When their job is botched by the sudden, but not unexpected, appearance of Dominic's deceased wife, Mal (which, for whatever reason, is pronounced like "Maul"), they plan to lie low for awhile until the incoming heat from the man they were hired by blows over. Instead, Saito reappears and offers Dominic a deal he can't refuse: The chance to return to Stateside and be reunited with his children, whom he 'abandoned' when proper authorities decided to label him as his wife's killer. All he has to do is infiltrate the mind of a man who is on his way to controlling the the most powerful energy conglomerate in the world and convince him to dissolve his dying father's company via "Inception" (the ability to implant an idea into the mind of a dreamer and have them believe the idea was theirs). Despite Arthur's reservations towards the job, naturally, Dominic says yes and assembles a motley crew of former/new associates and one young college student named Ariadne (Ellen Page) who steps in to become their "architect" (a person who creates a dream scape to fool a dreamer into believing their in the real world and not dreaming) and prays the job gets done without a hitch. Naturally, it doesn't and when the group find themselves stuck in their target's mind (with one of their own mortally wounded) with no possible way of escaping, they bite the bullet and decide to go through with the plan in hopes of escaping back to reality.
What follows afterward is Christopher Nolan's "How to traverse a Streamlined Subconscious 101 during a botched mission" with a combination of your typical action/adventure summer fare. And such a description is not to say that the film was terrible. On the contrary, it was a very composed film and did it's job well. However, in concerns to the dream scape universe presented in the film, I'm afraid that was far too simple and not at all like a dream. While Inception's initial (and obvious) inspiration may have come from "The Matrix (1999)" --- a film that does a superb job of playing with the themes of dreams vs. reality and bending said reality ---, it truly fails on that level to capture the same sort of surreal atmosphere. Dreams are nonsensical and jagged at best and therefore, cannot be as normal as they were presented in this film. But I suppose for the sake of coherency, it had to be. And while the idea is hinted a lot at in the film, there is never a moment in the film where the characters ever question their reality (outside of that one sequence with Ellen Page in the beginning), whether or not they are dreaming, it's just mentioned alot.
That aside, a lot of people have said "You'll need to see this film a couple times to truly understand it" and that's simply not the case (at least not for me anyways). As mentioned before, this is one of Nolan's simpler films. It doesn't mean to surprise like Batman Begins or The Prestige did in 2005 and 2006, but it does test your level of patience and dedication to it's storyline with it's length, much like The Dark Knight did in 2008. This film, like TDK, is a half-hour too long and really needed to be trimmed down.
Another downside is that, while the performances in the film were great, a few of the characters are, perhaps, too monotone for their good. With the exceptions of Ellen Page's Ariadne (who, next to Joseph Gordon Levitt, is the highlight of the film with her everyman character), Tom Hardy's Eames (who's character can be characterized as that "smart-arse Brit with a mind for deception, 'Sherlock Holmes'-esque disguises, a taste gambling and fast women") and Cillian Murphy and Dileep Rao, who's characters are as human as they can be in a Nolan film, actors like DiCaprio, Watanabe, Levitt and Marion Cotillard (who plays Mal) have characters that could easily be exchanged between them because their devoid of any real personality outside of "serious business" (welll, maybe not Cotillard).
DiCaprio's Dominic is simply defined by the loss of his wife and the need to return home to his children, outside of that there isn't much to him beyond that broodish facade. It pulls on the heartstrings to be sure, but it's not a character I became particularity attached to or concerned about. Levitt's Arthur, as smooth and likable as he is, is just another straight-faced character, brilliantly realized within the context of his ability to act with so little and one of the best action sequences I've seen in a long time (he also steals every sequence he appears in).
The special effects waver between rather telling (folding the city on top of itself, the limbo level) and near seamless, action sequences are gripping and brilliantly choreographed (The Zero-Gravity fight on the second dream level). Hans Zimmer's score, while not his best in the least, takes a cue from Sherlock Holmes (with a touch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 See: "Mombasa") and manages to be both different from his usual soundtrack and suits the atmosphere of the film as well.
Overall, I loved the ideas and most of the execution presented in this film. Inception manages to be somewhat original with it's premise and will without a doubt dazzle audiences for its two and half hour stay on the Silver Screen. --- [A 4 out of 5]